The persistence of behaviorally deleterious genes in the human population poses an interesting question for population genetics: If certain alleles at these loci are deleterious, why have they survived in the population? We consider evidence for phenotypic capacitance and/or frequency-dependent selection for an allele that has been putatively shown to have negative associations with human behaviors (the "short" 5-HTT promoter region allele) yet has persisted in human and nonhuman primate populations. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we compare sibling and twin variation in depression by 5-HTT genotype (specified in several ways) and investigate sibship-level cross-person gene-gene interactions. In support of the "orchid/dandelion" hypothesis, we find evidence that the short allele increases variation in phenotypes in response to environmental (or genetic) differences (i.e., acts as a perturbation of a phenotypic capacitor). Further, we also find some evidence that the effects of allelic variation at this locus are moderated by the genetic environment of the sibship unit (i.e., effects may be susceptible to frequency-dependent selection). We discuss implications of these findings for genetic models in general, specifically with respect to stable unit treatment value assumption violations (i.e., nonindependence of units of analysis).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics